How to say no: I have been asked many, many things in the last two months. I’ve been asked if I need a taxi hundreds of times, I’ve been asked if I want a cold soda, a massage, a free shot, drugs, a lady boy, and many other sometimes bizarre things. I’ve had people come up to me to try to get me to buy sunglasses at night, or a glow in the dark slingshot, stretchy toy. Sometimes the logic of why I would ever want to buy what they offer eludes me. But whatever the case most of the time I say no. No can be said in a lot of ways and depending on the situation it has to be said differently. I have said “no” but made eye contact with the person and they ignore the word because eye contact showed too much interest. Sometimes No is ignoring the question, sometimes its waving my hand and looking away. Its important to say it like you mean it, half ignoring doesn’t work, and saying “no” as you stare at whatever they are selling looks more like a yes.
How to pick where to eat dinner: look for a place that appears more like you’re walking into someones garage or living room. The best food seems to be cooked by somebodies mother. I’ve had some good food at fancy looking restaurants but on average it feels like the bigger eateries care less about the taste of their food. When the chief cooks for a group of friends and neighbors everyday they seem to get pretty good at the ten things they make.
How to order food: if there is a menu point at what you want, if there is no menu look around to see what other people are eating. If something looks good point at that. If there is no menu and no one eating say a word like “soup” or “noodles”. If they don’t know those words put your fingers to your mouth as if eating. Most of the time they will understand that you would like some food, although at times I have ordered (or thought I did) and waited an hour before finding out that no one was making me food.
How to find where you’re going in a town: ask someone where it is, they will probably point their arm in a swooping direction indicating that you must make one or more turns on your path to the location you seek. There is often no way of knowing how many turns or how far it is. Ask again each time until either you find it or they start pointing the opposite direction.
How to pronounce words in new languages: say it wrong until someone repeats it back to you the right way and than say it that way.
How to enjoy every meal: have no standards.
How to not feel like an idiot: do everything perfectly the first time without any help from strangers or friends (I prefer feeling like an idiot most of the time).
How to cross the street: imagine you are playing frogger. If you don’t know what that is make the realization that life is precious and despite that you really do need to get across that road.
How to sleep in a hostel: develop a love for dance music such that it lulls you off to sleep even when your bones are the only thing that hears it. Also it helps to not try to sleep at night.
How to feel like you know what you’re doing: Remember that “Hey, I got this far, I must be doing something right.” and realize that your ability to figure out what you’re doing is more important than knowing how to do everything before you try.
How to think of yourself as Marco Polo: don’t talk to that French couple that has been traveling for 2 years and talk about it like its a decent start to a trip.
How to keep your sense of wonder: I don’t know yet but here is what I’m trying so far. 1- walk slowly so I have time to see the little things 2- wonder what a strangers story is before you ask 3- try to remember who you were when you left home, and what that person would have thought of this view. 4- remember that everything is changing and nothing happens twice.
How to stay inspired: ask that person what their story is.
I might have learned a few more things but I’m going to leave it at this before I have too much fun. I’ll add more down the road.